A healthy way to prepare fare: post offers food handler course
A favorite pastime for many Americans is dining out. Family Readiness Groups and military units on the installation often prepare and cook food at post events to raise funds for extracurricular activities. The staff of the Fort Gordon Environmental Health Prevention Medicine office would like to ensure that everyone who handles food for the public is properly trained on food safety.
“We offer a food handler course the last Friday of every month,” said Maj. Davin Bridges, chief of environmental health preventive medicine. “The course is free and is taught from 10 to 11 a.m. at Maglin Hall, Building 38701. It’s open to everyone at Fort Gordon. The food handler certificate is good for one year and allows Soldiers and Family Readiness Groups to participate in handling and selling food on the installation.”
The course is designed to make sure everyone stays health, he added.
Knowing how to handle and prepare food is important. Each year, roughly one in six people in the United States get sick from contaminated food, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Spc. Lakethia Collins, an instructor and the noncommissioned officer in charge of environmental health preventive medicine at Fort Gordon, talked about temporary food service sanitation and food handling practices Sept. 27 in Maglin Hall.
“The two main causes of a foodborne illness outbreak are salmonella and staphylococcus,” said Collins.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella infection causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food and accounts for $365 million in direct medical costs each year.
“Salmonella is caused by potential hazardous foods held at room temperature, cross-contamination, inadequate cooking, and/or improper cooling,” Collins explained. “Staphylococcus is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. It occurs naturally on the skin and mucous membranes of the human body and can also be found on one’s hands. Good hand washing prevents its spreading. There is no substitute for hand washing.”
Collins pointed out several causes of food borne illness. These include: failure to properly refrigerate foods, allowing foods to remain at warm temperatures, improper cooking temperatures, contaminated equipment, preparing foods a day or more before serving and food handlers who practice poor personal hygiene.
To prevent or stop the spread of Hepatitis A virus and other disease causing germs, food handlers must wash their hands often. Wash your hands before you begin working and when they might be contaminated, such as, after coughing, sneezing, touching raw meats or poultry, or especially after using the toilet.
Collins recommended using warm water and soap from a dispenser, rather than a bar of soap, when washing your hands. Scrub your hands and forearms for 10-15 seconds and don’t forget to clean between fingers, under nails and your wrist. Recite the A-B-Cs or sing the “Happy Birthday” song to ensure you have an adequate time to wash your hands, wrists and forearms. Turn off the water facet with a paper towel and not your clean hands. Dry with a single-use towel (or air dry).
When working with food or utensils, do not wear jewelry, other than a plan wedding band or a medical alert bracelet, Collins advised. Avoid touching food with your bare hands, particularly ready-to-eat food that will not be cooked or has already been cooked. Use clean plastic gloves and wash your hands before putting on gloves.
If you have an open cut, wound, or sore on your hands or arms you should not work with food. Don’t prep or serve food if you are sick. When you are allowed to return to work, cover the wound or cut with a waterproof bandage and wear plastic gloves.
Keep your clothes clean. Collins recommends wearing light-colored clothing and plastic apron. Always restrain your hair with a covering such as a hair net or cap. Long beards should also be restrained. This keeps loose hairs and sweat out of food.
Keep all foods within the required temperature zones. New temperature danger zone for food is minus 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 139 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are several ways to thaw foods, but Collins recommended the best way which was in the refrigerator.
Cold potentially hazardous foods must be kept at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot foods must be transported and kept at or about 140 degrees Fahrenheit for no longer than four hours. “You will want to stir the food frequently and keep it covered,” Collins explained. Some examples of potentially hazardous foods are meat, eggs, milk, fish, salads, cream pies and dishes, cheese, gravies, rice, potatoes, and fresh cut watermelon or cantaloupe.
Collins recommended the use of a metal stem thermometer to test the interior temperature of food. Monitor temperatures frequently.
Use only clean utensils and cookware to mix, prepare and serve food. Make sure it free of cracks, rust and chips.
Use clean plastic cutting boards free of cuts and grooves. “Make sure to wash it before and after use, particularly raw meat,” advises Collins. Avoid cross contamination by not mixing raw foods with cooked foods.
Food must be protected all times from contamination during processing, transit and while on the counter for display.
“ In temporary food service operations, one doesn’t save or freeze leftover food,” Collins cautioned.
Collins recommended a sanitizer solution consisting of 100 parts per million or two tablespoons of bleach per four gallons of water for wiping cloths, kitchen utensils and equipment.
To prevent an infestation of insects or mice Collins recommends immediately cleaning up all spills; keeping your work area clean and store food in air-tight containers. Use trash bags and cover trash cans with a secure lid.
The hour-course offered a wealth of information about making food safer to eat. One of the students attending the course, 1st Lt. Drew Johnson, assigned to the 447th Signal Battalion, felt the information would be helpful to anyone. “I was not aware of the storage times for hot and cold food before attending this class,” Johnson said. “Often times our unit hosts events for our Soldiers and cadre and this information will help make sure everyone is kept safe.”
Ashlee Bourdon, a military spouse, also found the material helpful.
“I got the food handler card to help with Family Readiness Group functions,” she said. “It will also be good to have for my in home family child care facility as well.”
For more information or to register for the Fort Gordon temporary food service sanitation and food handling practice course, call 787-1279 or 787-1216.
Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures
Chicken, 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Eggs, scrambled, 155 F
Eggs, prepared to order, 145 F
Beef, (steak/roast), 145 F
Beef, (ground beef), 155 F
Pork, (chops, roast) 155 F
Pork (ground pork) 155 degrees F
Microwave Port, 165 degrees F
Fish, (filet) 145 degrees F
Stuffed meats, 165 degrees F
Stuffed pasta, 165 degrees F
Product Holding Temperatures
Hot Food, 140 degrees F or above
Cold Food, 38 degrees F or below
Refrigerator Temperature, 38 degrees F or below
Steam Tables, 140 degrees F or above
Refrigerated Display Cases, 40 degrees F or below